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Watching movies about heists seems interesting, but what if they happen in reality? Will it be the same? The truth is that in the US, people who commit robberies will get caught quickly, or they will get away with a few dollars. But the big money heists are rare and they are done by bold criminals with more plans. Dunbar Armored robbery is one such case that is still considered to be the biggest money heist in history. It happened in 1997 when thieves tried to escape with the money for several years. What really happened? Did they get caught? Did the police manage to get the money back? Continue reading. 

In Los Angeles, California the Dunbar company was located which specialized in armored car services, and the LA facility was a central depot for these vehicles. A great deal of money was stored in the facility, and most of it was intended for ATMs in the Los Angeles area. It was on September 13, 1997, that a group of thieves robbed the Armored Dunbar facility. The group of thieves dressed in black went to the Dunbar facility. They waited for guards to go on break and then overpowered them and tied them. Bags of cash was grabbed with high denominations, while they destroyed the security camera recordings and escaped. 

The man behind the Dunbar Armored robbery

 The man behind the Dunbar Armored robbery

In Dunbar there worked a man called Allen Pace III as a regional safety inspector. He seemed to be a hardworking man and so his co-workers liked him. But the truth was that he was the criminal mastermind with many plans. His main plan was to rob the downtown LA Dunbar Armored facility, a depot where armored trucks drop off and pick up cash. After a great deal of planning, he started the heist. 

He studied the security measures in the facility. He took pictures of the interior rooms and hallways of the depot and learned the schedules of everyone on the night shift. The employees in the company took it easy because they thought that it would be Allan’s part of job to learn them and oversee the safety of the workers in the company. He also had a job role to make sure that the fire extinguishers are up-to-date and the hallway are not blocked. He use to check the security cameras for blind spots and inspects the rotating cameras to see how long they stay in a specific field of view. 

He learned everything and then approached his trusted friends Eugene Hill, Erik Boyd, Terry Brown Sr, Freddie McCrary Jr., and Thomas Johnson to help him in the heist. They planned the heist for several months with map images and detailed information. They use to go on field trips driving past the building to get familiar with the area. One of the promises they made is if one of them gets caught, they should not inform others. 

The day of their big money heist

On September 12th, Thursday, Allan got notified to be fired from Dunbar Armored for interfering in order to cause damage to the company property. He removed the headlight of the armored trucks and the next day Allan would have to turn his keys and lose access to the facility. 

And so he found the Friday morning hours the perfect time to begin his heist. The Thursday night, the crew of robbers hanged out at a party in Long Beach for a couple of hours for the last discussion. They got changed into black clothes and masks with radio headsets to talk to each other. They checked their guns before driving about 25 miles to downtown Los Angeles. There was only less traffic and the journey took less than half an hour. 

The day of their biggest money heist

They reached the Downtown Dunbar facility and without any issue, they drive the U-Haul truck into the parking lot. Allan unlocked the side door and the robbers went right on it. The first task they had was to escape the detection of various security cameras that were lining the hallways. They escaped by moving during time intervals while hugging the walls to walk wat past rotating cameras.

The robbers went for the cafeteria and quickly took the hospitality staff hostage. Most of the guards go on break at 12.30 am and when the guards arrived at the cafeteria, the robbers attacked them and took as hostage one by one preventing them from alerting the other guards. 

They made the guards lay their faces down and their arms and ankles bound with duct tape. There is a vault prep room that has cameras that cannot be avoided. So the robbers rushed the two armed guards. There is an 18-inch steel door and due to the volume of money being moved through the facility on a Friday night, the door was been left open for ease of use. 

They went into the vault and used bolt cutters to snap the padlocks on metal cages and stored the bags with cash. Allan had the idea of routes that use large denomination bills and he avoided the new cash that had sequential serial numbers. They mainly took sacks with $20 bills that had been destined for ATMs around the city. They load the bags onto metal carts and back their truck up to the dock and load up. 

They moved $18.9 million in cash in about 30 minutes. As a final step, Allan stole the security tapes from the recording system and then raced to the locked closet elsewhere in the place to steal the secret backup security tapes. On the way out, they smashed the cameras. And so they pulled out the largest cash heist in American history without a single gunshot fired. 

The day of their biggest money heist

They got changed into their party clothes, and return to the house party on Long beach. These robbers were smarter, cause Allan gave each of the crew $100,000 to be used and spent carefully. The rest of the cash was not given until the heat got off. The remaining money was packed in garbage bags and moved into a self-storage facility. 

The investigation began 

The local police, FBI, and other authorities started to investigate the heist. But there were no fingerprints, videos, and other evidence. There were even no names because they called each other by numbers. But they found that someone with intimate knowledge of the operations of the organizations is the one to be behind the Dubar Armored robbery.

The authorities interviewed the employees of the facility to find the truth. When asked about a suspect to have done this crime, most of the employees kept on saying the name, Allan. The clue they found is a small plastic tail light lens at the Dunbar’s loading dock and it was found that it doesn’t belong to any company. 

The forensics found that is from a 14-foot U-Haul truck. But there are many U-haul for rent in LA. They checked to see if Allan had rented any truck. But there was nothing. 

Surveillance was conducted on Allan,  going through his financial records, but they didn’t discover anything.  Alan hasn’t made any purchases and lives at his mom’s home.  He stayed away from the self-storage center, and it was found that he didn’t have any bank account. 

Allan’s executed his next plans 

Allan’s executed his next plans 

Six months passed,  and it was then Allan split out the money to his crew. Allan’s plan was to share his rental properties,  retire and live off his investments. The robbers purchased cars and properties in cash and used straw buyers to get at least 10 homes during public auctions, allowing families to live in those homes.  But the problem was that the robbers had stolen bags of new money with sequential serial numbers. Allan said that this money needs to be destroyed and one of the thieves went to a home with a fireplace and tried to get it to burn. 

But the U.S money burnt slowly as it was manufactured to be not easily burnt. Then robbers went to Las Vegas and play slot machines, but the new money got jammed into the machines. The robbers put the money through a washing machine to make them usable. 

Anand set up a company that rents party supplies, mainly a front to launder the stolen money.  He paid high salaries.  

How did they got caught? 

But after 2 years, Eugene hill,  one of the robbers hired a real estate broker to purchase a property. He gave the man a stack of cash wrapped in original cash straps.  The broker got suspicious and informed the police.  The authorities investigated and found the handwriting on the straps.  Finally, they found that the cash is a part of the stolen money from the Dunbar facility. 

When they dig into Eugene’s inertial records they found the records of U-Haul,  where he has rent a 14-foot U-Haul a day before the robbery.  They arrested him and found more cash in the original money wrappers. He confessed to a lesser sentence, and Allan and other robbers got arrested and put on trial in the spring of  2001. 

Allam claimed that he was being set up by his former friends as revenge for cheating with a friend’s wife. But all of them pleaded guilty and were sentenced to federal prison ranging from 7 to 10 years. And Allan was sentenced to 24 years.  Total money was not found yet, because some were spent on properties,  some were burnt,  and others were hidden somewhere. 

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